music part of holiday show
- by James Reaney
The London Free Press
- Most Lawrence Welk fans probably
know singer Ralna English joined the late U.S. band leader's
TV family in 1969.
They may even know English grew up in Texas. But many Welk fans
might be surprised by her rock 'n' roll-roots.
- English joins other performers
associated with the Welk TV show at Centennial Hall tomorrow
night. Others on hand will include tap-dancing and marimba-playing
Jack Imel, jazz clarinetist Henry Cuesta, Ava (Country Gal) Barber,
Dick Dale and the Lawrence Welk Orchestra.
- Years before entering the "wunnerful,
wunnerful" world of Welk, English had established her Texas
and rock 'n' roll claim to fame. Raised in west Texas, she once
went head-to-head with Buddy Holly, the rock and roll legend
from nearby Lubbock.
- In the mid-1950s, when she was
about 13, she began singing with a little group known as Ralna
English and the Ad Libs. Holly was already active as a rockabilly
performer and about two years away from recording That'll Be
- English recalls going up against
Holly at a Lubbock-area music competition.
- "I started out singing
with a rock 'n' roll band in junior high school," she says.
"This was in Lubbock, Tex., long before Buddy was the huge
star. We had a battle of the bands on Saturday night at the local
(movie) theatre. I still have the plaque that I won. We beat
Buddy and Joey Maudlin (bassist Joe B. Maudlin) and all those
- "We had no idea Buddy was
going to be this huge star. That was kind of a joke, that we
- Another west Texas legend, the
late Waylon Jennings, also shared the stage with English in that
era. She learned to appreciate country music from Jennings and
even sang backup on an early Jennings recording. Jennings played
with a later edition of the Holly group.
- English soon moved on to music
closer to her true loves -- including jazz, pop and gospel.
- Eventually, she starred with
other members from The Lawrence Welk Show in 11 national TV specials.
Along with her former husband and singing partner Guy Hovis,
English was a Dove Award nominee for a gospel record. A recent
English recording, My Favorite Love Songs, features big band
hits from the 1930s and 1940s. These days, she is also a popular
guest performer at the Champagne Theatre at Branson, Mo. Branson
is also home to other Welk performers.
- Welk was a U.S. bandleader who
parlayed a combination of champagne stylings and easy-to-digest
corn into huge record sales and a never-ending rerun gig on PBS-TV.
The Welk TV show is still seen on more than 270 PBS stations
in the U.S. Welk and his trademark "wunnerful, wunnerful"
may be gone, but a family-corporate outfit, The Welk Group, Inc.,
has created the 2002 Christmas tour in the tradition of the annual
Christmas television show once produced by Lawrence Welk.
- "When Lawrence started
out, he called this his 'musical family,' (but) he had no idea
that we would truly, truly be a family," she says. "I've
stayed in touch with everybody . . . We care about each other.
We're concerned when things happen in our lives. We're there
for each other."
- Meanwhile, in recognition of
her musical accomplishments long after that battle of the bands,
English has a place on Lubbock's Buddy Holly Walk of Fame, along
with other west Texan performers, such as Mac Davis, Tanya Tucker,
Joe Ely, Roy Orbison and Jennings.
- IF YOU GO
- What: A Lawrence Welk Family
Christmas, a show created in the tradition of the annual Christmas
television show produced by the late Lawrence Welk and including
performers associated with the U.S. entertainer
- When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
- Where: Centennial Hall
- Tickets and details: $42.50
and $39.50, plus applicable service charges; call 672-1967